Strategic plan's academic goal teaches sustainability to students

September 12, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State’s University Sustainability Council is drafting the University’s first strategic plan for sustainability. The council is seeking public input for five-goal plan during the drafting process. The second goal of Penn State’s Strategic Plan for Sustainability aims to educate students about sustainability.

"Students are requesting more sustainability instruction, aware that employers are seeking to hire graduates who are knowledgeable about sustainability," said Rob Pangborn, vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education. "Penn State can play a unique role in addressing one of our society's most pressing issues by bringing faculty expertise and emerging research to the classroom, to produce graduates who also can lead in this effort."

The goal states that the University will "ensure that Penn State graduates have a deep understanding of sustainability. We will prepare students to lead others in the implementation of sustainability strategies in their personal lives, local communities and professional pursuits."

To support this goal, the University Sustainability Council is considering the following general strategies:

-- Define specific sustainability competencies and credentials that will be pursued for foundation, leadership and expert levels of achievement in sustainability learning.

-- Develop coordinated academic and co-curricular programs designed to cultivate specific sustainability competencies among Penn State students.

-- Encourage experiential learning that provides students with hands-on opportunities.

-- Enhance existing courses (particularly General Education courses) to embed concepts, challenges and case studies of sustainability.

-- Create programs and policies that recognize, support and reward interdisciplinary teaching and learning.

-- Provide faculty training and development opportunities around teaching sustainability throughout the curriculum.

Penn State already is educating students about sustainability in various ways inside and outside the classroom. For instance, in spring 2011 the University compiled its first curriculum inventory of courses  and sustainability-related majors. The Green Careers initiative is a resource for students who are interested in sustainability-related careers, offered jointly by the Center for Sustainability and Penn State Career Services. New this year, an intercollegiate minor in sustainability leadership is offered to students in any major who wish to integrate social, economic and environmental concepts of sustainability into their degree program. Outside the classroom, for example, the Center for Sustainability has offered students a collaborative research and service-learning program since 2001 called the American Indian Housing Initiative. Students learn how to build sustainable homes and buildings using straw-bale construction and conduct residential energy assessments on American Indian Reservations. Additional educational programs are listed at online.

This fall, town hall meetings will be held at each Penn State location to give individuals the opportunity to discuss the plan in its current form and offer suggestions in support of each of the plan’s five goals. For a list of town hall meeting dates, visit online.

Individuals also may share ideas by email at or at online. The public discussion phase of the strategic plan's drafting process will continue through Wednesday, Nov. 23. Ideas submitted by the Nov. 23 deadline will be shared in a timely manner with the University Sustainability Council for their thoughtful consideration during the planning process. The final draft of the Strategic Plan for Sustainability is scheduled for completion by Dec. 31.

For a list of initiatives Penn State already is involved in, visit online.

For more information about the Strategic Plan for Sustainability, refer to the FAQ page at online.

  • Click on the image above to visit the form to share comments and ideas with the University Sustainability Council, or send an email by Nov. 23 to

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 04, 2020